Five CTI Fellows Chosen for NC Governor’s Teachers Network

By Matthew Strohl, CTI Summer Intern

Recently, North Carolina implemented a program called the Governor’s Teacher Network (GTN) which brings together teachers from all over the state in a year-long intensive program to collaborate on professional development and curricula for other teachers. Five CTI Fellows were chosen as part of this group of distinguished teachers: Brooke Colby-Russell, art, Mallard Creek High School; Theresa Brooks, K-1, Davidson Elementary School; Lewis Davidson, math, Mallard Creek High School; Gloria Brinkman, visual art, North Mecklenburg High School; and Kathryn Heinen, music, East Mecklenburg High School. Thirty-four CMS teachers were selected in all. Because this is GTN’s first year, I decided to ask them a few questions about their experience thus far and what they expect.


What is the GTN?

COLBY-RUSSELL GTN is the Governor Teachers Network. It is going to be a group of teachers that are coming together to help write curriculum and develop professional development for teachers by teachers. The thought is that it will be a lot more useful. Teachers will be a lot more open to the ideas that are being presented because they are from other people that are “down in the trenches.”

BROOKS It is an opportunity for teachers to come together. There are two different pathways that you can choose. One is a professional development pathway. The other is a pathway for teachers to write lesson plans. These resources will all be available on the Power School Network.

DAVIDSON This is a brand new initiative inspired by Gov. Pat McCrory. We just had our kickoff with all 450 educators collected in Raleigh. In the past, the state spent a lot of money on external consultants who would come in and tell us what we should do. McCrory asked ‘who knows what best we should do?’ The answer: Teachers, the people with their feet on the ground and who are out there working with the issues every single day. So why not pay them rather than the consultant to take this on? We have all been asked to take on a difficult work scope in addition to our responsibilities, but we all appreciate this opportunity and are willing to make the sacrifice. These educators will do things to enhance all teachers’ abilities to teach.


Did CTI influence your decision to participate in the GTN?

BROOKS It did. When I did CTI, I looked at children and how we influence the way they look at the world. My seminar was about the meaning of beauty to young children. CTI was a great vehicle for me to investigate.

HEINEN I think I am interested in both of them for the same reason. Creating the content and looking at the curriculum and pulling apart the standards appeals to me on both different levels. I am excited because with CTI I am taking a music history focus while through the GTN I am taking more of a music theory focus. The fact that I am able to look at two isolated parts of my content will make for an interesting year.


How do you feel the GTN will affect you?

COLBY-RUSSELL I think GTN will continue to build my confidence and to allow me to take more leadership roles in my school. It is going to push me to start to seek out more of those leadership opportunities, because now I will have two things under my belt, two tools in my toolbox that will help me out.

BROOKS We have already started – We haven’t even met yet. We started doing a class together and talking to each other via email. It has already been a great deal of fun.

DAVIDSON I really would like to say that the effect is not for me, but for the people I am developing the professional development for. Clearly I will grow by virtue of research I do and work I will be able to produce.


What do you hope to get out of the GTN?

HEINEN I am looking forward to understanding what DPI is looking for as far as these units are concerned. I do think that is an area that is a little bit unclear for a lot of music educators because we are very frequently last on the list. And I think being able to understand that this is what their expectations are for the high school music programs would be beneficial.

COLBY-RUSSELL I am really hoping that it is going to be that motivational factor for me to move more out of the daily grind of teaching, lessons materials teach reflect. It works but sometimes it gets monotonous and boring. This will throw a wrench in there for me. It will give me some spice so that I can go further with my ideas.

BROOKS I am hoping to reach other teachers and to show them that the journey to using technology in the classroom is a baby step process and that it is so worth it in the end.

BRINKMAN I really becoming very, very excited about this type of challenge. I get excited about writing original curriculum. And that it can be accessible, shared with other teachers, is just thrilling for me. It is a way that I like to be a resource for other teachers. This is a very important way for me to do just that.


How do you feel the GTN and CTI relate and what are the differences between them?

BRINKMAN It is going to be a different type of collegiality. The individuals that I will be collaborating with are not going to be face-to-face. That provides a new challenge to meet deadlines and parameters for format. This step into the GTN is going to be very comfortable because of the experience at CTI and having had that very professional discourse. Our institute is very wonderfully developed with great professionalism. It makes you rise up and meet the demands of the deadlines and needs, to be able to share your unit work. In that sense, I think that the Charlotte Teachers Institute has given me a certain amount of comfort level to move forward.

HEINEN I definitely think there are strong correlations between the assignments related to both of them. You could come up with similar pitches for both and it would still work. I think the creation of really rich research-based units for classrooms is a strong correlation between them. There is a pretty distinct difference. I think with GTN we are going to be very content-specific. With CTI, one of the things that is really interesting is that it is cross-curricular and cross-grade level.